Fifty years of building success

DANCE: Where to hold school dances was an issue for Big Rapids High School students when they were moved to the new building on N Warren Ave. Instead of holding dances in the gym, they were held in the school's cafeteria. (photo courtesy of Big Rapids Alumni Association)

DANCE: Where to hold school dances was an issue for Big Rapids High School students when they were moved to the new building on N Warren Ave. Instead of holding dances in the gym, they were held in the school’s cafeteria. (photo courtesy of Big Rapids Alumni Association)

BIG RAPIDS – In the spring of 1964, the Beatles were at the top of the Billboard charts, the Rolling Stones debuted their first album and baby boomers were filling schools to capacity.

As the baby boomers of Big Rapids became teenagers, the growing student population required additional space, and a new high school was built at 500 N. Warren Ave., in Big Rapids.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the dedication of that school. What was then Big Rapids High School is now Big Rapids Middle School.

Ed Block was the student council mayor of Big Rapids High School’s class of 1964, the first class to graduate from the new building.

ON THE BUS: In 1963, juniors and seniors at Big Rapids High School were bussed between the high school on State Street, now Crossroads Charter Academy, and the new high school, now Big Rapids Middle School. (photo courtesy of Big Rapids Alumni Association)

ON THE BUS: In 1963, juniors and seniors at Big Rapids High School were bussed between the high school on State Street, now Crossroads Charter Academy, and the new high school, now Big Rapids Middle School. (photo courtesy of Big Rapids Alumni Association)

Block remembers the ceremony, during which he spoke and accepted the school on behalf of the student body.

“I was basically just thanking the taxpayers,” Block said. “They were giving students an opportunity to be successful with state of the art equipment and facilities.

“Like anything new, building the school was a new vision, a new way of finding where you are going and learning how to manage new hallways, get to classrooms and working with new technology. For the first time, we had a public address system that went through school. Before that, classes were changed with a bell system.”

High school was a busy time, Block recalled.

“As student council mayor, I was a part of student government, setting up new ways of handling our meetings and keeping students informed about what was going on,” he said.

When students made the transition to the new high school, deciding where to hold school dances was a large issue.

“At the old high school, we held our dances in the gym,” Block said. “At the new high school, folks did not want us to have our dances – which were basic sock hops – in the gym, for fear that it would damage the floors. The option we agreed on was to clear out the cafeteria, and we would have our dances there.”

Though the school was dedicated in the spring of 1964, classes were held in partially finished rooms of the building in 1963 to accommodate the students.

Robert King, of the Big Rapids Alumni Association, said students were bussed between the schools as needed throughout the day.

“Only classrooms in the north end of the new school were open first,” King said. “I remember that I was in an English class in November 1963 when someone came in and gave us the news that President Kennedy had been shot.”

King also recalled carrying materials from the State Street high school – now Crossroads Charter Academy – to the new building.

“For chemistry class we were bussed over the the new building and sometimes we would have to take a cardboard box full of equipment with us,” he said. “So, we helped actually move stuff there. We took boxes of chemicals, glassware, whatever they needed to take over. It was a slow move. It didn’t happen overnight.”

Big Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Tim Haist said 50 years later, community support for education and the safety and security of students has allowed for continued use of the building.

“The community has allowed us to enhance the building and perform necessary upgrades and also build a new high school,” Haist said. “We are very fortunate to have that community support.”

 

NEW SCHOOL: Students attended classes in temporary classrooms during the transition to the new high school in 1963. (photo courtesy of Big Rapids Alumni Association)

NEW SCHOOL: Students attended classes in temporary classrooms during the transition to the new high school in 1963. (photo courtesy of Big Rapids Alumni Association)

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Posted by Miranda Roberts

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